Yes they can! Demystifying the effects of foreign language learning for students with special needs
This paper addresses the issue of integrating students with special needs into foreign language programs in the early childhood years. A partnership between a university and a charter school in central Florida began as a result of parent and teacher interest in providing a foreign language program for its prekindergarten students. Since 2014, prekindergarten students have been receiving French instruction twice per week in a typical foreign language exploratory (FLEX) program designed to introduce the French language and culture; however, this program is atypical because of the population of the charter school, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). At UCP, approximately 50% of the students have special needs ranging from mild delays to significant physical and cognitive disabilities. Since the beginning of the French program, questions have been raised by various stakeholders (including some parents and other educational professionals) about students with special needs experiencing confusion in foreign language programs. The educators who started the French program designed a study to address questions raised about the suitability of foreign language programs for students with special needs. The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of a French language program on the first language skills of an inclusive prekindergarten population. This article presents the preliminary results from the ongoing research study.